Kit Steinkellner
November 07, 2014 11:59 am

In the ongoing online and offline dialogue about how men treat women on the street, what is becoming increasingly obvious is that there is a large group of men out there who really don’t understand the problem at hand. Many men on Twitter and major news outlets insist that catcalling should be taken as a “compliment” because, you know, it’s just a way of being “friendly.” (Major eye roll.) They say that women who take offense are just being “overly sensitive.” And that talking to a woman you don’t know on the street is a “harmless, whatever, no big deal” thing.

All of this really bugged comedian Elon James. As James put it on social media: “If [catcalling] is all about being social and has nothing to do with pursuing the woman then why don’t [men] be social amongst [themselves]?”

And so, James, being a modern comedian, used the modern comedian’s weapon of choice to wage his quiet war: the TWITTER HASHTAG. The goal? To debunk the myth that catcalling is just about gentlemen being all nice and friendly-like to the ladies. Using the hashtag #DudesGreetingDudes, White challenged Twitter to take a dude’s catcall, which is normally directed at a woman, and instead imagine that catcall was directed at another dude.

Here was his (very, very, very tongue in cheek) call to arms:

The hashtag is meant to shed light on the institutionalized sexism of street harassment. It’s also supposed to be a chance for people to bust out and be hilarious on social media. Congrats. We’re two for two, people. James and his hashtag are absolutely successful on both counts.

James got the ball rolling with some awesome examples of how the #DudesGreetingDudes game could be played:

Then the rest of Twitter got involved and brought their A-game to the hashtag challenge.

The hilarious results below:

#DudesGreetingDudes is a noteworthy contribution to the fight against street harassment for a few reasons. When you use a comedic device to explore a social issue, you can often engage an audience who wouldn’t have otherwise listened. People don’t like to be lectured, but they do like to be entertained, and when you can find an entertaining way to explore an issue, you tend to have a better shot at accomplishing your end goal: educating people about the issue at hand.

#DudesGreetingDudes is also important because it really gets men thinking about what it is like to be a woman walking down the street. The hashtag quite literally puts men in women’s shoes and asks them to walk a mile. It’s a hashtag that forces empathy. If we’re going to put the kibosh on street harassment, we need a ton of male allies who realize what a problem street harassment is for their mothers/sisters/girlfriends/lady buddies/female coworkers/basically all the women they know. If we get enough men standing with us on this, that’s going to shame a WHOLE lot street harassers into, you know, NOT street harassing. The more peers we get on our side, the more peer pressure we are going to be able to inflict. And as we all know, there’s no social force on Earth more powerful than good old fashioned junior high tested and proven peer pressure.

Unfortunately, #DudesGreetingDudes ran into a bit of a trouble when several Twitter handles stated that the hashtag was homophobic in nature, and that #DudesGreetingDudes was ridiculing the idea of men making advances on other men. The creator of the hashtag disputed this reading:

Despite James’ best intentions, the hashtag has still managed to hurt members of the gay community. This isn’t the first time the fight against street harassment has managed to unintentionally hurt and inadvertently alienate would-be supporters. That same Hollaback video that launched this current dialogue about street harassment has been criticized by many under the charge of racism. The woman in the video is harassed by mostly black and Latino men. Cultural critic Roxane Gay tweeted: “The racial politics of the video are f—ed up. Like, she didn’t walk through any white neighborhoods?” Then the camera man went on record stating “We got a fair amount of white guys, but for whatever reason, a lot of what they said was in passing, or off camera,” and that the video shown “is not a perfect representation of everything that happened.” Sounds like they needed another day of shooting.

It seems that the fight to end street harassment is bringing up as many problems as it is attempting to solve. Still, it’s an important battle to wage. We just need to figure out how to fight the good fight in the most intelligent, sensitive, and aware manner possible.

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